Dual Band Wireless Card

We explain how to make the Wi-Fi better on a laptop.

QUESTION I recently purchased a new high-speed 802.11ac router for use at home. My Apple MacBook Air works really well with it, but is it possible to upgrade my wife's Intel-based laptop, which only supports 802.11n, to take advantage of the higher speeds and increased range? It's not getting a very good signal at the moment.

I know there are USB dongles I can buy, but my wife doesn't like using them. What I'm hoping to do is perform some sort of internal upgrade. Is this possible?

HELPROOM ANSWER The answer is maybe, depending on your exact model of laptop. (And a USB dongle is always the simplest option.) First of all, it will need to have its existing Wi-Fi adaptor located on a plug-in card, rather than soldered into the motherboard so you can replace it – or at least it must have a spare PCIe Half Mini Card/M.2 slot to allow one to be fitted.

Secondly, it will also need to have the right sort of Wi-Fi antenna built in, for connection to the replacement card. If the laptop supports currently supports dual-band operation – both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands – you may be in luck.

Thankfully the card you need isn't very expensive, so it's worth giving it a try. Intel's Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 is available for under £20 and should be a simple plug in replacement for your existing Wi-Fi card. It has driver support for Windows 7, Windows 8 and Linux.

If you can't get this to work, then you'll have to go down the USB route. Be careful if you're tempted to go for a physically small example, as they often support lower maximum speeds. Also go for a USB 3.0 model rather than USB 2.0 – assuming your wife's laptop supports USB 3.0.

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